In my childhood, I grew up with a Rottweiler with its characteristic black & tan colour, and well-built large paws and big jaws. My father named it ‘Crush’ and it was the four-footed member of our family and our reliable sentry. Eight years after my father bought Crush as a puppy, it strayed from our house to an adjoining major road, where it was killed by a car. I cannot forget that Thursday afternoon when our neighbours came rushing to our door to inform us that they had seen our fatally wounded blood-covered dog lying by the side of the highway. Everyone in our home was devastated. It almost felt like we had lost a human member of our household and my usually unemotional father was visibly distressed as he wondered aloud whether the name, he had given to the dog had been responsible for its fate. I also recall that we had grey and green parrots that squawked and whistled all day long after feeding on fruits and corn seeds which we passed into their cages.
The evolution of pet ownership is as old as history. What does the Bible have to say about pets and animals (domestic and wild)? Here are four things the Bible says about pets and animals:
#1 – God Created and Cares About All Animals –
Going through the Bible, one may doubt this first truth, especially concerning animals regarded as unclean. For example, in the Bible, dogs are mentioned 32 times, mostly negatively (I Samuel 17:43; 24:14. II Samuel 3: 8; 9: 8; 16:9), and their connection with carrion and carcasses makes dogs despicable. In the Book of Proverbs adds this: “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly” (Proverbs 26: 11; II Peter 2: 21-22). The Bible also uses dogs as a metaphor to hint at the poor status of men (II Kings 8: 13; Job 30: 1) or at such lowly elements of society as the enemy (Psalms 22: 16, 20), traitors (Psalms 59: 6, 14), and false prophets (Isaiah 56: 10-11). Little wonder, therefore, that Deuteronomy proscribes the admittance of dogs and whores into the House of the Lord (23: 18), a peculiar association that is also suggested in the Book of Kings (I Kings, 22: 38).
I believe that the negative approach of Biblical narrative to how dogs appear is historical, as well as contextual. Regardless of dogs having negative imagery in the Bible, they have positive roles to play in agrarian, nomadic and urbane societies, where they fulfil guard functions, primarily. The Bible’s apathy to dogs may emanate from opposition to remnants of polytheism, especially Egyptian cults and rites. Anubis, Ancient Egypt’s god of death, had a dog’s head, and Isis, the goddess of life and magic, was represented as riding on a dog. Furthermore, other animals such as falcons, hawks, scarabs, cows, crocodiles, jackals, lionesses and hippopotami were integrated into the Egyptian pantheon, which may have generated the negative imagery surrounding certain animals in the Bible.
Even the unclean animals are created by God. In Genesis 2:18-20 (MSG), God said, “It’s not good for the Man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion. So God formed from the dirt of the ground all the animals of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the Man to see what he would name them. Whatever the Man called each living creature, that was its name. The Man named the cattle, named the birds of the air, named the wild animals; but he didn’t find a suitable companion.”
In Matthew 10:29-31 (MSG), Jesus said:
“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.”
From the above scripture, it is obvious that God places value on the canary, although he places a higher value on man. Psalm 104: 27 – 30 also buttresses the point that God cares about animals and He alone is the only source of their livelihood.
#2 – God Communicates With Animals –
In Genesis 6: 19, God must have spoken to all animals to move towards the ark and Noah’s role was to receive them into the ark before the Flood. There is no record in the Bible that God asked Noah to go around the earth finding the animals; rather God ‘teleguided’ the animals towards the ark.
In 1 Kings 17:4 (MSG), “God then told Elijah, “Get out of here, and fast. Head east and hide out at the Kerith Ravine on the other side of the Jordan River. You can drink fresh water from the brook; I’ve ordered the ravens to feed you.”
In Exodus 7:12 (MSG), “Pharaoh called in his wise men and sorcerers. The magicians of Egypt did the same thing by their incantations: each man threw down his staff and they all turned into snakes. But then Aaron’s staff swallowed their staffs.” Here, we see that God must have instructed and thereby empowered Aaron’s snake to swallow up the snakes of the Egyptian’s magicians.
Of course, Satan tries to replicate God’s powers, albeit deficiently, by also communicating and influencing animals from the platform of witchcraft. Nevertheless, there is no problem with these ‘innocent’ animals, as the issue lies with the type of spirit that is influencing or communicating with the animal.
#3 – Animals Have a More Acute Awareness of the Spiritual Realm than We Think –
There are many stories about dogs barking whining, hissing, staring at something we cannot see, especially in the dark. Indeed, a friend once mentioned to me that in the town of Ilorin, Nigeria, it is believed that a cat can sense when the spirit of death is hovering around a home, ready to take a soul. It is said that once a cat has perceived such an impending death, it avoids entering that home until the spirit of death departs. Africa as a continent abounds with folklore and supernatural tales regarding animals and the spirit realm, particularly in the operations of demons and witchcraft.
Let’s check out the Bible for its stories about animal sensitivity to the supernatural. The tale of Balaam in Numbers 22:21-33, is poignant here. In that encounter, Balaam was spared death at the hands of the Angel of the Lord because Balaam’s donkey ‘turned aside’ when it saw the angel. The Bible does not say the Angel of the Lord revealed his presence to the donkey, but rather that the donkey saw the Angel, but Balaam did not. A miracle happened during this encounter as God enabled an animal to speak. God opened Balaam’s eyes at last and he too was able to see the angel.
From Daniel’s account in Daniel 6:21-22 (MSG), the Bible also records that the lions’ mouths were closed by an angel of the Lord – “O king, live forever!” said Daniel. “My God sent his angel, who closed the mouths of the lions so that they would not hurt me. I’ve been found innocent before God and also before you, O king. I’ve done nothing to harm you.” I do not believe that the angel had to physically approach each lion in the den and close their jaws. The angel probably spoke to the lions supernaturally and commanded them not to harm Daniel.
#4 – Animals Bring Glory and Praise to God –
The psalmist called on everything to praise the Lord in Psalm 148, which call includes all animals (vv. 7, 10). The final verse of the final psalm of the entire psalter reads: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6). Animals bring glory and praise to God by being themselves even though they don’t praise God with words like we do. For example, we associate the caterpillar and butterfly with the power of transformation, the beaver with industry, the buffalo with endurance and most famously, the lions with royalty.
In Romans 1: 20, the Bible states as follows: “But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse …” (underlining mine for emphasis).
By their very existence, animals point to God as Master Creator. Although Man is God’s masterpiece, animals are a product of God’s creative energy as any other part of creation. Animals, like plants and the entire universe and galaxy, also point to God as the greatest designer and artist.
Image by Jan Steiner from Pixabay
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